Magento SEO tips: common mistakes to avoid

A good shop won’t possibly survive without SEO. If you’re doing Magento search engine optimization yourself, great that you learn and apply the knowledge on your store.

But there are points which can be unobvious for those with humbler SEO experience.

My former college mate approached me and begged for help. For 6 months she was struggling to bring her hand made mugs and cups store at least to some top 20 or 30, but for that moment her store wasn’t showing higher than 50 position.

At first sight she was doing okay for a young self-taught entrepreneur, she was good at collecting the right keywords, writing unique product descriptions and blogging. Given there wasn’t harsh competition in her niche, and only a couple of competitors had great marketing (others were doing on an average level), I supposed Kate’s website must have performed better.

After careful investigation, several issues in Magento SEO settings were found. They may look unimportant individually, but altogether they caused poor rankings and low traffic.

These Magento SEO tips are handy for seeing the bigger picture. If you feel that your find-read-apply-repeat tactic needs improvement, have a look at this list.

Intro

The default Magento installation is close to useless when it comes to SEO. It has certain settings, but they are insufficient for proper search engine optimization and fighting competition.

However, don’t leave these default settings as is: still you need to go through them and tune everything up before installing any third-party SEO extensions.

Basically, you just need to go through all Configuration points and change every single default setting. Some of them will be covered further.

Common Magento SEO mistakes and tips on fixing them

Using default descriptions

If you go to System => Configuration => Design => HTML Head => Default description and enter it, Magento will put this description to all pages without a custom description. Remember that each of your pages is considered to be unique, including meta tags.

Having the same URLs for translated pages

Say, you have three languages on your store. If your product is site.com/product.html for the English language, you should have different URLs for the same product in Spanish and German. Basically, this goes not only to product pages, but to all pages of your Magento store. It’s an important Magento SEO tip!

Ignoring rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x”

rel=”alternate” connects pages with the same content, but in different languages. And don’t use canonicals to connect translated pages! Also, you might want to use another tool – “x-default hreflang” for international landing pages. Don’t forget to link translated pages with each other. It is usually done through country flags or links with language names, as ‘switch to English’.

Changing URLs or deleting pages without setting a 301 redirect

If you change URLs or delete pages and don’t set up a proper redirect, it will cause more 404 mistakes on your website. This is not a deadly sin for search engines, and Google says it’s perfectly okay to have some URLs returming 404 pages, but still they want you to fix them. What is more, a 404 page may scare your visitor off. The best decision is to get rid of all known 404s regularly. System – Configuration – Catalog – Create Permanent Redirect for old URLs will help you.

Ignoring images optimization

By default Magento does not change the name of the product image and does not add an alt tag. You want your images bring you passive traffic from search engines, and you need SEO friendly names and filled alt tags for that.

Using default Magento XML sitemap

Default Magento XML sitemap is too simple: it includes only products and category pages and doesn’t contain images. To make sure all of your store pages are indexed and reindexed properly and fast, upgrade your XML sitemap. And make sure you check its content before submitting it to Google Webmaster Tools. There is a common mistake to submit a sitemap that contains sample products.

Ignoring rich snippets

Out of the box Magento doesn’t have any options for generating rich snippets.

In reality rich snippets are a great way to have more exposure and attention without necessarily being in top 3. When it comes to Google, results with rich snippets have higher CTR and more clicks, and similar tools like Twitter Cards or Rich Pins work the same. Implementing rich data is relatively easy and should be made only once, while having more clicks, traffic, and sales will last as long as Google exists. In other words, you are getting more with the lowest possible expenses.

Ignoring Magento loading speed

Website’s loading speed is an official Google ranking factor. What is more, an e-commerce store’s speed influences bounce rate and customer’s desire to return to this site in the future, according to numerous studies.

When speaking of site speed in terms of SEO and marketing, Magento itself is very slow. This is a price for its features and possibilities. That’s why working on site’s performance is a very important factor; using a cache solution is highly recommended.

Ignoring Magento duplicate issues

When it comes to duplicate content, which is considered to be true evil by Google and other search engines, Magento is a naughty kid that’s ready to spoil the whole party if you don’t bring it to heel.

Here are the most common reasons you can face partial or full duplicate content in Magento:

  • variations of the same product
  • product sorting
  • pagination
  • same product in different categories – several URLs for the same product
  • several home page URLs, including www, ‘home’, and ‘index.php’ variations.

To get even more Magento SEO tips on fixing your duplicate content properly, feel free to read our article.

Ignoring layered navigation SEO optimization

I feel it’s needed to point this out: this is not just a Magento SEO tip. Leaving Magento layered navigation, either the default or the third-party one, without tuning SEO settings is an important mistake which may lead to hundreds of pages with messy URLs and duplicate content.

Magento SEO tips: improved navigation

As you choose various options in the layered navigation menu, parameters are added to the URL. By default search engines will index lots of pages with various parameters combinations

The more options your navigation has, the more messy pages may appear in SERPs. Thus, such a number of irrelevant pages may have seriously influenced your rankings.

For more Magento SEO features, please have a look at Amasty SEO Toolkit extension.

Did you find these Magento SEO tips helpful? Will be happy to answer more questions on common SEO issues in comments.